1. Worth, Tammy


Increasing educational capacity gets at the root of the problem.


Article Content

The numbers are bleak: U.S. hospitals have more than 100,000 RN vacancies, according to the American Hospital Association; we'll be short 1 million nurses by 2020, projects the Health Resources and Services Administration; and the average nurse was almost 47 years old in 2004, according to a National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses. And although the shortage is often discussed, said Susan Reinhard, chief strategist of the Center to Champion Nursing in America, "It's not so evident that a faculty bottleneck is the problem. Even in academia they don't think about this every day."


But several organizations that are aware of education as the source of the problem came together at the Nursing Education Capacity Summit in Arlington, Virginia, in June. Outlining challenges and devising creative, local solutions were the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; the Center to Champion Nursing in America, a part of AARP; and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. The conference brought together hospital CEOs, representatives from colleges and universities, philanthropists, and state policymakers from 18 states, who heard about programs already implemented that might serve as models for plans in their respective communities.


A 2007 survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing found that 71% of baccalaureate nursing programs had vacant faculty positions. This is due in part to academics' heavier workloads and lower salaries-master's prepared associate professors averaged $66,588 annually and master's prepared NPs averaged $81,517 in 2007.


Participants heard the following potential solutions to the problems facing nursing education:

Figure. Participants... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Participants in the Nursing Education Capacity Summit in Arlington, Virginia, enjoying an evening reception.

Bringing together resources. One example is the ADN Regional Collaborative in California, in which five colleges developed a common curriculum, seven hospitals contributed funds, and a corporation provided simulation beds. Classes are taught through videoconferencing, and three of the hospitals house clinical laboratories.


Increasing nursing faculty and diversity. The North Florida PhD Nursing Consortium created a cooperative doctorate in science for five area universities. Students attend classes at home campuses, which are linked through interactive technology.


Redesigning nursing education. In 2007 the University of Texas at Arlington opened its Smart Hospital to focus on simulation. The 33-bed hospital reduces the need for clinical placements while allowing students a safe environment in which to practice skills.


"Flexing" policy. Examples of shaping policy and regulation to nurses' benefit include legislation in Maryland to increase hospital rates in order to fund an increase in nursing education; bills in Colorado forgiving loans to students pursuing master's or doctoral degrees; and a $6,000 raise for 500 nurse faculty members granted by the Mississippi state legislature.


The group will continue to share ideas and technical support with the 18 states who sent representatives to the conference, Reinhard said, and will send information to the 31 other states and territories that applied to attend the conference. To read a white paper commissioned for the conference, go to


Tammy Worth